News Release

Nationwide Strike to “End Prison Slavery”

USA Today reports: “‘You can’t just treat people like animals’: U.S. prison strike prompts solidarity rallies.”

Newsweek reports in “U.S. Inmates Launching Nationwide Strike to ‘End Prison Slavery‘” that: “The strike, which is supposed to last until September 9 — the anniversary of the 1971 Attica Prison uprising in upstate New York — calls for an ‘end to prison slavery’ and for a number of prison reforms.

“For 19 days, inmates across at least 17 states plan to refuse to work, with some also refusing to eat, to draw attention to poor conditions and what advocates have called exploitative labor practices in the prison system.”

The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee states: “Rebels incarcerated in prisons across the nation declare a nationwide strike in response to the riot in Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in South Carolina. Seven comrades lost their lives when prison officials turned their backs on a riot they provoked. We are demanding humane living conditions, access to rehabilitation, sentencing reform and the end of modern day slavery.”

ED MEAD, ed.mead71 at gmail.com
Mead is former director of the Prison Art Project, former co-editor of Prison Focus and a former prisoner. He writes that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that is commonly viewed as having ended slavery actually simply constricted it by giving an exception to the ban. The Amendment stated that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist within the United States” — but explicitly stated: “except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted.”

Mead writes: “It is this exception that has resulted in the enslavement of some 2.2 million Americans behind bars and restricted the rights of 14 million formerly convicted citizens.”

He adds that this violates the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 4 of which states: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery … shall be prohibited in all their forms.”

Mead is author of Lumpen: The Autobiography of Ed Mead.

See 2016 piece from Shaun King in the New York Daily News: “How the 13th Amendment didn’t really abolish slavery, but let it live on in U.S. prisons.”

See video excerpt from the Netflix documentary “13th” of Michele Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, on the path from “plantation to prison.”